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The Product Owner as the liason between the Product Management and the Engineering team (contd..)

In the previous article (Product Owner as liaison between Scrum team and Product Management), we discussed the concept of having a Product Owner who works closely with the Scrum team, is co-located with the Scrum team; this gives the Product Manager much more time to work with actual customers, with industry, and learn more about what some of the customers are actually looking for. This is an essential requirement for getting a product that works with customers, and gives a much higher probability of success.
All of this sounds very good, so why is that not every Scrum team has this approach, where there is a Product Manager at the customer site and there is a Product Owner to spend much more dedicated time with the Scrum team. And, with this approach, one can hire a Product Owner who actually is much more comfortable with processes, who works with the team. But, there are some pitfalls with this approach:
– It adds expense to the overall software project. Typically when teams convert from Waterfall or something else to using Scrum, there is no extra allocation for additional personnel; further, a Product Owner can come fairly expensive. Those responsible for budgetary allocation would balk at such requests and question as to why Scrum puts the need for an additional headcount (and too, not for a Dev or QE, but for somebody more like a Product Manager).
– A Scrum team typically catches onto who has the real responsibility and authority. If the structure becomes such that the Product Manager is the one who takes the critical decisions, and it becomes clear to the team as well that the Product Manager is the one who decides, then it makes the position of the Product Owner very difficult. The team will in many cases try to bypass the Product Owner if a decision is not to their liking, or if they need some very critical advice. This can be a very tricky case, and it will require finesse to ensure that the team structure is kept fine and proper.
– Engineering teams like to have direct contact with the person who is working with customers, and may consider the Product Owner as another layer in the entire chain.
– Getting a person to fill the position of the Product Owner can be somewhat crucial, but getting a person who has the experience of working with an engineering team and who has experience of working as a Product Manager is difficult; such a person may not want to work in the role, and may want to work as a Product Manager rather than as a Product Owner.

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